My father, Moish Weinstein was my hero. He worked hard as a milkman and then a bus driver and when he came home, he wasn’t the babysitter who ‘helped’ my mother take care of my sister Jan and me as was the norm back in the 1950s and 60s when I was growing up. He was the Daddy who played all kinds of games with us, took us sledding and kite flying, planted and weeded the garden, let us help him clean the garage (my mother would joke that it meant moving the junk from one side to the other, rarely throwing anything out since his Great Depression-era childhood in South Philly instilled in him the value of things he ‘might need someday’.), taught us to drive a stickshift, and how to box. Yes, this former Golden Gloves boxer laced up the gloves, gave us mouthguards and headgear, and let my sister and me take a few swings at each other in a supervised manner when we were going at it verbally one day. He knew we wouldn’t get hurt and what really happened was that we took a few punches at each other’s gloves and ended up laughing. To this day, the image still gives me chuckles. Good thing I’ve always been a pacifist since I could have developed a mean right hook. On Friday nights, I would sit with him at synagogue, as he explained the meaning of the prayers and on the High Holidays, would wrap his tallis (prayer shawl) around my shoulder since girls/women, even those of us who had become Bat Mitzvah, were not permitted to wear them. He and my mother raised us to be full human beings, not relegated to stereotypical norms. For that I am grateful.
His ‘Moishisms’, as I called them, included, “They put their pants on one leg at a time, just like you do.” “Your life is in the hands of any fool who makes you lose your temper.” “You never know what tomorrow brings.” “What hurts you hurts me.” That last one contributed to my growing co-dependency since I didn’t want him to be sad. As a result, I would stuff my emotions, to placate and people please. It played out in nearly every romantic relationship I found myself in, or perhaps, lost myself in. The second quote had me anger repressing and conflict avoidant since I didn’t want to relinquish control of my emotions. He would also, in the midst of adolescent sadness over breakups, advise me not to let boys see me cry since they would “know that you are vulnerable and take advantage of your feelings.” I know he was attempting to protect me, but that tough it out mindset remained with me. In my relationships, including my marriage that ended more than 22 years ago when my husband died, I sometimes put my feelings aside in the service of keeping the peace. Paradoxically, my father wore his heart on his sleeve and cried easily. He laughed and smiled just as readily and only rarely did I hear him raise his voice. I’m sure he was mightily tested at times on the job, since he would swig Maalox and say at times, “That burns me up,” when describing stressors. He and my mother modeled resilience having both lost parents when they were young adults.
They also modeled a life long loving relationship, one that I envied and have yet to fully emulate. They spoke all of the Five Love Languages fluently, setting the bar really high. That’s where this story is going. This morning, I read a recent article reposted on The Good Men Project site called Tap Dancing.
In it, I describe an experience where I realized that I don’t trust men to be both strong enough and gentle enough to take care of me, as my father did. He wanted me to be independent and not need to rely on a man and he wished for me the kind of interdependent relationship he and my mother had for more than 52 years. I nailed the first one since after my husband died, sans life insurance, I kept a roof over my son’s and my head, working several overlapping jobs to do it. At 62, this therapist/journalist/interfaith minister/editor/teacher/speaker continues the pattern. The second one, only in snippets. The short term relationships, lovers, and friends with benefits have been somewhat heart and soul-nourishing, but still, I remain sometimes blissfully, sometimes sadly, single.
I love my independence and the freedom to come and go at my whim and I miss the companionship of a significant equal. I love creating my own nest that is admitted eclectically decorated and I miss having someone to share it with. I love being able to sprawl out across my king size bed, sleeping on either side and I miss snuggling with another person, especially now, in the time of COVID.
Last night, I watched a movie on Netflix called Our Souls at Night that starred Jane Fonda and Robert Redford as 70-80 something widowed neighbors who find comfort in platonic bed-sharing. The chemistry between them was delightful and it was lovely to see elders experience emotional and (not to give too much away) physical intimacy as the story unfolds and evolves. As I followed their journey, I found myself smiling and tearing up a bit and nodding, thinking I would enjoy that kind of relationship. Few complications, easy conversation, the meeting of mutual needs, no expectations of what the union could become.
As I age, I am hoping, gracefully, I am learning to become my own sweetheart, not as a placeholder for the One, but as an enhancement to an ever-evolving relationship with the embodiment of the kind of love my parents shared. I imagine that my dad is smiling from Heaven, wishing the same for me.
This post is republished on Medium.
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Photo credit: Screenshot from video